Honda City (Jazz) (1981)

In the early 1980s, although Japan had already been the largest car producing country, it was still renowned for improving ideas from the West rather than innovating new ideas. However, a team of young engineers at Honda did something different. They wanted to design an innovative small car for young people. The car had a funky look - very compact and unusually tall - just like a cartoon car. Young people loved its shape very much while enjoyed its spacious interior. Automotive historians noted that it was one of the first modern tall-body designs, just one year behind Giugiaro's Fiat Panda. Some recognized it as the first niche supermini.

This car was called Honda City in Japan and Honda Jazz in Europe.
It was positioned between the smaller Today (Honda's K-car) and the larger Civic. As most mechanicals came from the entry-level Civic, it was cheap, economical and reliable. In addition to the funky image, no wonder it was hugely popular in my childhood and flooded streets everywhere.

The City was powered by a 1.2-liter sohc 8V engine producing 67 horsepower. As it weighed less than 700 kg, performance was better than expected. Honda also produced a turbocharged version which offered 100 hp in the first generation and 110 hp in the second generation, making it the fastest in its class. The Turbo II also came with widened fenders and a bonnet with power bulge to excite observers, though some may question its taste. A cabriolet version was also offered, once again strengthening its niche status.

Honda renewed the City in 1986 and converted it to Fit in 2002, but neither of them really captured the spirit of the original car. This make it all the more memorable to us.


City Turbo II
Year of production
No. produced
? units
? units
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
3380 / 1570 / 1470 / 2220
3420 / 1625 / 1470 / 2220
Layout, Gearbox
Front-engined, Fwd, 5M
Front-engined, Fwd, 5M
Inline-4, sohc, 2v/cyl
Inline-4, sohc, 2v/cyl, turbo.
Engine capacity
1231 cc
1231 cc
67 hp
110 hp
72 lbft
118 lbft
665 kg
740 kg
Top speed
88 mph*
105 mph**
0-60 mph
13.4 sec*

* Tested by Autocar
** Tested by Car Graphic

Copyright© 1997-2009 by Mark Wan @ AutoZine